For the overwhelming majority of my time on two wheels, the breaking of traction has been an occurrence I have done my damnedest to avoid…Grip, grip and an extra serving of grip please. But my preference for adhesion belies a long-standing obsession with flat track. A teenager who clocked up too many hours watching On Any Sunday became an adult with a Sideburn Magazine addiction and sideways leaning friends who still somehow never quite managed to scratch the itch. Until now.

A Bike Shed Members day at the Dirt Craft / Royal Enfield Slide School appeared in the calendar and my arm shot in the air. In anticipation of the day I studied the particulars; location - Iwade Speedway circuit on the Kent coast, machines - custom Royal Enfield Himalayan “FT” 411’s and the instructor - Pro Flat Track racer Gary Birtwistle. This was going to be a lot of fun.

In the name of a good story-telling (but in reality, to get a jump on the participating members) I wangled a brand-spanking Royal Enfield Scram 411 on test for a few days either side of the school. With a flat track standard 19’ front hoop the Himalayan based Scram is a squint away from near-as-dammit the same as the slide school steeds we would be wrestling. After a dreary motorway drone to our destination (not the Scrams most obvious habitat) the learning could begin. 

As usual on ‘Shed member events the atmosphere was easy, relaxed and jovial as Gary explained some of the basic principles of sliding on a picturesque track walk, which revealed a surface simultaneously looser yet harder than I had expected. The essential left-peg steel-shoes were fitted to provide us with that authentic clunk-thud racer limp gait and we were tentatively underway.

Oh-so slow early laps with cone strewn straights kept us upright and sensible as we learned our way around the bikes and the basics. The easy-going motor and broad gear ratios I had familiarised with aboard the Scram were as expected, but bolstered with a grin inducing growl courtesy of the fruity S&S pipe. The lack of front brake however, I doubt could feel familiar in a lifetime of laps, my two right fingers groping the air for the absent lever…

Progress and pace increased as sessions and snacks ticked by, punctuated with further pearls of wisdom from the ever-helpful, good humoured Gary. The drip-feed tuition was timed just right as confidence grew and the breaking of traction became provoked rather than feared. Of course, it is no surprise he can teach this stuff so well, ‘cause my Lord can he do it.

Gary has won every round of the 2022 DTRA season to date aboard his stunning factory RE Harris Performance 650 (seen below in attendance at our ‘22 London Show). A further 2 British and 1 European Championship between 2018-2020 for Ducati UK, alongside regular race wins in the 450 Pro-class, tell you all you need to know. Watching him pilot the school FT 411’s on sighting and demonstration laps displayed a supreme skill, the edges of which were surprisingly accessible during our one day tuition, but the mastery of which is clearly an entirely different gallop of greyhounds.

Back to us newbies. Our speeds lifted and slides lengthened as early boundaries were explored and surpassed, the shriek of steel shoes growing ever louder as the day drew to a close. It was amazing to see the progression in our group; from a quiet, cautious procession to a raucous crew of somewhat slide-ways converts.

On a couple of occasions the dirt was viewed a little closer than intended. For myself I was as convinced as I have ever been of imminent crashy-crashy only to find myself through the other side and belting down the straight - my heart lost through my mouth somewhere mid-corner. But with limits came learning and finally, with a degree of assurance I hadn’t expected, I knew what it was to go side-ways. And hell, do I want to do it some more.

Dirt Craft host slide schools across the UK, check out their page HERE and get yourself along – you will not regret it. There is already a clamour for more sideways action from Bike Shed members and crew so expect another day to drop into our calendar soon. Email to get yourself a hole shot start for the list.

If like me, all this has given you a flat track appetite you can begin to sate it HERE with Sideburn Magazines review of all the trackers in attendance at our 2022 London Show, some absolute belters. 


Royal Enfield SCRAM 411

On the journey home the Scram and I continued our acquaintance. Away from the motorway and encouraged by the frolics had astride its FT cousin, we really started to get along. In truth, we do not make an obvious pair. At 6’4’ and 100 ish kg’s I have a habit of making big bikes look small, and the Scram ain’t particularly big. One more creative observer likened my appearance on the Scram to “a spider in a teacup – all knees and elbows”. So yes, perhaps I am not this 24-horse machine’s target rider, or perhaps that is my own misconception? The Scram was more than happy to try and convince me otherwise.

As we rode in and out of towns, flick flacked through roundabouts and whipped between hedgerows one word kept springing to mind. Honest. A long admired human trait but not always top of the want list when it comes to motorcycles, perhaps it should be. The Scram is obviously not a fast motorcycle, nor is it pretending to be. It takes you back instead to the simplest form of riding, where momentum, line and presence within a journey are far more pertinent than tech spec bragging rights and elec-trickery.

Enfield describe the Scram as “A spirited, multipurpose ADV Crossover that combines high altitude adventurer DNA with authentic scrambler vibes... An able multi-tasker, optimized for agility and always ready to take on challenges.” And whilst I am pretty sure it is a moto-journo no-no to type marketing blurb verbatim, I am not a moto-journo, and this line hits the proverbial nail with a well-aimed hammer.

I love the Scram wheel set up. Having spent the majority of my days piloting a 21-inch front in various guises, I have grown accustomed to their on-road vagaries, but I often crave the set-up of my all-time favourite back-road hustler, the odd-ball Cagiva Gran-Canyon (do bear with me reader). With a 19’ front and 17’ rear (as my oft mourned ‘Giva) the Scram is mountain-goat agile in an eager, bounding fashion. I don’t understand the physics, but I know the feeling. If you were previously tempted by the Himalayan with its 21’- 17’ set up, do be sure to give the Scram a swing too.

Forcing the bike down Supermoto (and as I now know Flat-track) style was a rewarding hoot as was more upright pendulum progress. Beyond a few dusty tracks the majority of our time was spent on tarmac, but such is the confidence the Scram package inspires I wager it would prove a more than willing accomplice on the loose stuff as well. And if you really must, for those high(er) speed slogs, just stick to 70. You will get there in the end. Plus, if you try for more than that the mirrors will start folding in on you.

Given their price point Enfield actually provide the majority of competition for the Scram 411 themselves. Want something more traditional? Take the Classic 350. More Adventurous? Himalayan for you good sir/mam. Want to pretend you are American? Check out the Meteor. Or if you want longer legs via a few more cubic centimetres come and meet the 650 twins. For me, the Scram is the one. If you are moving up from a 125 or indeed just fancy a different take on the whole two-wheeled progress game you cannot go far wrong. As they said so eloquently themselves, it just does it all. You may also be tempted by a spare pair of 19’s and an S&S pipe...for the weekends.

Thanks to @harryblaisefryer for capturing the day.